Merv Tweed celebrates his electoral victory in 2011. He was not available for comment after spending reports emerged showing that he spent the most on travel in 2012 of all Manitoba MPs. (TIM SMITH / BRANDON SUN FILE)
Former Brandon-Souris MP Merv Tweed spent more taxpayer dollars last fiscal year on travel than any other Manitoba MP.
According to recently-released federal expense reports, Tweed spent $125,646.14 to travel to Ottawa and other destinations within Canada — nearly $32,000 more than the next biggest Manitoba spender, NDP Winnipeg-Centre MP Pat Martin ($93,676.06).
Manitoba MP’s travel expenses -- April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013
- MP Niki Ashton (Churchill) - NDP - MB Traveller Expense $92,768.94 - Designated Traveller Expense $25,697.09
- MP Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $45,544.93 - Designated Traveller Expense $8,970.89
- MP Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $68,257.90 - Designated Traveller Expense $0
- MP James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $66,467.56 - Designated Traveller Expense $15,874.65
- MP Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $56,923.34 - Designated Traveller Expense $10,825.84
- MP Steven Fletcher (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $51,647.42 - Designated Traveller Expense $1,041.08
- MP Shelly Glover (Saint Boniface) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $30,319.61 - Designated Traveller Expense $7,037.19
- MP Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North) - Liberal - MB Traveller Expense $28,643.69 - Designated Traveller Expense $11,952.21
- MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) - NDP - MB Traveller Expense $93,676.06 - Designated Traveller Expense $21,584.46
- MP Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $45,695.95 - Designated Traveller Expense $14,965.82
- MP Robert Sopuck (Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $52,249.87 - Designated Traveller Expense $12,154.66
- MP Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $59,754.97 - Designated Traveller Expense $8,095.03
- MP Vic Toews (Provencher) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $62,401.95 - Designated Traveller Expense $6,272.71
- MP Merv Tweed (Brandon-Souris) - Conservative - MB Traveller Expense $125,646.14 - Designated Traveller Expense $21,352.84
» Parliament of Canada
The reports, dated from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013, also show a combined total of $2.2 million was spent on travel for MPs’ "designated travellers," which most of the time refers to their spouse, but not always.
Tweed’s records show he was high-flying in that category as well — he claimed $21,354 for 11 trips, of which seven were to Ottawa.
Martin spent nearly as much in the spousal category, and NDP MP for Churchill Niki Ashton spent more than $25,000 — the most out of all Manitoba MPs.
After several attempts by the Sun, Tweed was not available for comment.
Parliament rules dictate an MP is allocated 64 "points" each year where one round trip equates to one point. While it’s assumed most travel expenses come from commuting between their constituency and Parliament Hill, MPs are allowed to claim up to 25 trips anywhere in Canada.
Of those 25 trips, MPs can also fly to and from New York City or Washington, D.C. four times a year.
Tweed didn’t use all of his travel points in the last fiscal year, nor did he expense any trips to the U.S.
The board of internal economy doesn’t release details behind the expense numbers, including how much Tweed paid for each flight, where he flew within Canada, or who his designated travelling partner was.
Those omissions raise questions from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an Ottawa-based advocacy group.
"The reason that you can’t see the plane ticket is so that the public won’t focus on the incredibly sloppy management of taxpayers’ money, and so that politicians don’t have to talk about how much they spend flying relatives around on the public’s dime, tax free," said the federation’s federal director, Gregory Thomas.
"This is the people’s money, so it should all be out there."
The public is bombarded by how much public officials spend on a regular basis — with senators garnering most of the attention recently — and it may seem like a small amount of money, but Thomas said the numbers indicate MPs are paying exorbitant amounts for plane tickets.
"They pay more than anyone in their right mind would pay with their own money," he said. "It’s other people’s money, they’re not being very careful, they just don’t care ... that’s why we’d like to see all the details so you can have a reasonable discussion and the people who are spending the money can be held to account."
In total, Tweed expensed almost $434,000 last fiscal year. That includes employee salaries, hospitality, advertising, printing and office space. Tweed and most of Manitoba’s MPs expensed roughly the same amount.
The Liberal party announced last month all of its caucus members will post their travel and hospitality expenses beginning this month and the other parties have not followed suit.
Tweed announced he was stepping down as the area’s MP after nine years of service to take over as president of OmniTrax Canada, a resignation which prompted the upcoming byelection.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 7, 2013